“OK, you can have one sweet.” “I want two sweets daddy.”
“Five minutes till bedtime.” “10 minutes daddy!”
If you have children you will know these conversations all too well. Children are probably the best negotiators on the planet. If it was possible most unions would probably employ children to manage negotiations with bosses!
In industry we often hear similar comments but obviously not about sweets or extra staying-up time. “We don’t have enough money to do that” and, “We don’t have enough people to do that” are probably the two most common statements. I have never been to a company where at least one of these statements isn’t made. So when is enough actually enough? The answer depends on a number of factors.
Most reactive organisations need more of everything. The demand is at short notice and to be able to satisfy it you need to have redundancy, higher numbers than ‘optimum’ – in other words, spare capacity of everything. Perhaps the problem should be looked at from a utilisation perspective rather than a capacity perspective. If we don’t have enough people in our organisation based on our current working mode we should be asking, “What is the utilisation of the workforce? Is it 20% or is it 70%?” How you deal with the matter after you have answered the question will be different in both cases.
We also need to ask ourselves at what point do we say “No” or “I’m sorry, it will have to wait”? We all live in a reactive environment and often disguise it as ‘dynamic’ or ‘flexible’ or ‘able to react and satisfy’. Ask yourself: As the customer, would you like to have a guaranteed level of service where there are no interruptions, and when you need to wait you do so at a reasonable cost, or would you like to have an environment where you get service within a short period, pay more for it and often have periods of non-delivery or non-availability? I would say the first one sounds better.
To be able to guarantee service levels we need to establish priority systems. We need to be structured to support a more controlled environment often with a transition of structure from mainly reactive to mainly proactive over a period of time. If you take this approach you understand what tasks or jobs can wait and which ones need to be acted on immediately. After all, being in control does not mean failing to meet customer expectations.
If we were lucky enough to have the funding to pay all the additional people, the next issue raises its head. Across the world there is a shortage of skilled resources, so how do we manage that? We need to look at it again from the utilisation perspective. It may be better to invest in establishing processes and systems to support a more controlled environment, planning and scheduling work and material requirements with an aim to increase staff utilisation. Often a relatively small increase in utilisation results in a dramatic increase in capacity. Add to this the fact that correctly planned and scheduled work results in lower costs, and you have more money to use wisely. In just the same way that reactive activity leads to a death spiral, proactive and controlled activity leads to a more reliable and consistent environment.
“OK, ten minutes then.” “Fifteen minutes Daddy.” I give up!